Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Office

Things I find exist in most offices:

1) The guy who constantly refills his gigantic cup (or more accurately, bucket). The cup never seems to get cleaned either, so it has gradually developed its own brown ecosystem. The owner will often refer to this as "seasoning".

2) What list would be complete without reference to the inappropriate speakerphone user? Not only is using a speakerphone at all a faux pas in the cubicle world, but it is never just for business purposes either, so people end up overhearing all kinds of personal information. Even at my new work, where we have offices that could actually allow you to use a speakerphone privately at low volume, I still have one habitual offender who a) never closes her door, thus obliterating the benefit of having an office, b) has fairly loud conversations, and c) always seems to be discussing a surgery or her kid's grades when I walk by. What is the deal? CLOSE THE DOOR!

3) On a similar subject, the person who has no idea how loud their computer volume is, and naturally loves having it ding to announce every time they receive an e-mail. The whole building can know how important you are!

4) Guys only: The weird urinal user. The guy who is taking a leak at the urinal, but is simultaneously stretching with his hands over his head, or leaning against the wall above the urinal with both hands. That's gross in the first place, because you should touch as few things as possible in a public restroom, particularly right around the toilet, and by no means should you use the metal flusher part above the urinal as something to lean on. Ugh. Furthermore, do your business and get out. What is wrong with people?

5) Things inappropriately used to indicate status at work:
- Number of meetings attended. "Important people like me are required to spend all day on the phone."
- Number of unread e-mails in the inbox. "Normal e-mails don't even rate me reading them."
- Newer/fancier monitor/laptop/equipment in general. Work envy: "I see you're sitting on the latest from Herman Miller and viewing your work on a 22 inch flat panel."
- Old and busted: hours spent at work.
- New hotness: Can you get away with not taking mandatory training courses? This may be an ACTUAL indicator of status. Tread carefully.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Repetition is the key to understanding

This post is dedicated to Mr. Greg Kurtz, my honors English and Literature teacher at Dayton Christian High School. Mr. Kurtz drilled two concepts into our mind in our classes (well, Mr. Kurtz was a great teacher, so I'm sure I remember more than two things from his classes, but these were concepts that he especially emphasized). One was that an author will usually repeatedly state in different ways the main point he wishes to communicate, hence "repetition is the key to understanding". Second was the concept of logical suspension of disbelief. For example, you have to accept that Superman comes from a far-away planet where people are born with superhuman strength and the ability to fly. Once that is established however, things still have to progress logically given that framework. For example, it would not make sense for the citizens of Metropolis to consider Superman a hero if he used his superhuman strength only to fling poop at them at supersonic speed. All of that is just background so I can review a book and a movie that I recently read and watched.

While in California, I finally read the Da Vinci Code. An easy and somewhat interesting read. Brown does a good job of keeping you involved in the different puzzles and wanting to see their solutions. However, I would quibble with the MTV-style chapters. Some were only two pages long! Irritating. Now, let's address how the logical suspension of disbelief applies to this book. By this point, many people have probably been overwhelmed by the amount of chatter discussing how the book is an attack on the church, what the Christian response to it should be, etc., so I'm not covering that at all. Rather, once you realize that the book is complete fiction and only an idiot could think there was anything factual in it that undermines Christianity, you can still have an ok time reading it. That part is the logical suspension of disbelief. However, one character's actions so did NOT ring true for me that it really killed the whole experience. At the start of the book, a French policewoman and a Grail historian are investigating the death of the policewoman's grandfather, who it turns out has quite a few connections to the Grail. She had actually cut off contact with her grandfather ten years earlier, when she walked in on a bizarre sex ritual at her family's vacation cabin wherein her grandfather was having sex with a woman in front of a bunch of masked people. Later in the book, the Grail historian guys explains that this was a PAGAN sex ritual where the masculine was connecting with the feminine and bringing them both closer to God or some other crap like that. Now a normal response to that would be "Yeah, that's exactly what I THOUGHT it was. Creepy!" However, in the book, the policewoman responds by crying, totally accepting the explanation as valid, and expressing remorse that she cut off contact with her grandfather over such a triviality. WHAT? How did the explanation change things at all? What else would she have thought was going on in the first place? Regardless, how does the explanation matter? If she had walked in on her grandfather sacrificing a child to something, and the historian dude later explained that it was ok because it was a PAGAN child sacrifice ritual that allowed them to connect to God better, would that have made it ok?

My wife and I watched Rumor Has It, starring Jennifer Aniston, on Saturday. For a chick flick, this actually had a pseudo-promising premise. Aniston, the lead character, returns to her hometown of Pasadena to discover that her family might have been the basis for the The Graduate. It seems like an interesting story could pop out of that, right? Wrong! The movie becomes a serious trainwreck at the point where the Aniston character meets the man who slept with her grandmother and her mother (so he would be the Dustin Hoffman character in the Graduate) and who she suspects might be her real father since her mother had a brief fling with him a week or two before her wedding to the man Aniston grew up with as father and a baby (Aniston) popped out shortly before nine months after their wedding. It turns out he is sterile so he cannot be her father (Side point, she couldn't just ask her mother because she died when Aniston's character was only nine years old). Ok, now she knows and can move on right? Or, option b) She could have sex with him! Guess which one happens in the movie? Yikes, this is a disturbing trifecta. 1) Creepy older dude 2) Who slept with your mother and your grandmother 3) WHO YOU JUST THOUGHT COULD BE YOUR FATHER. There is no way that would ever make sense. I still feel dirty just having watched it. The next day after watching this, the movie would come to mind and I would involuntarily shudder. Even aside from that, the plot was terrible. My recommendation: run fleeing from the room if anyone even mentions this movie in the future.

Friday, May 26, 2006

The end of 'more' - Los Angeles Times

The current frenzy over Wal-Mart is instructive. Its size is unprecedented. Yet for all its billions in profit, it still amounts to less than four cents on the dollar. Raise the cost of employing people, and the company will eliminate jobs. Its business model only works on low prices, which require low labor costs. Whether that is fair or not is a debate for another time. It is instructive, however, that consumers continue to enjoy these low prices and that thousands of applicants continue to apply for those jobs.

Try to guess who wrote such a reasonable-sounding sentence before you follow this link. Respond in the comments if you would have correctly guessed that in your first 1 million tries.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


This stuff tastes as good as it looks, which would be like the vomit in The Exorcist.

Did you miss me?

It's been a while since I've posted. I can't really say why, it isn't that I've been any busier than normal, or that I've had a computer shutdown. I mostly just haven't felt like it, or an idea will pop into my head to blog about, and then shortly I will think "That isn't really worth blogging about." Too high standards? Or just sheer laziness? Probably the latter. Regardless, I'll catch you up on what's been going on here.

We got back from a week in California late Tuesday night. We had a great time in Sacramento, but we were pretty spent by the time we left, as we tried to max out seeing as many people as we could during our visit. We arrived in Sacramento very late the previous Wednesday night. I guess by the time we made it out to where we were staying it was actually Thursday morning - 1 AM CA time, felt like 3 AM to us on Texas time. We got in late, so the pickings at the rental car place were pretty slim and we ended up with a PT Cruiser with a sunroof. Kind of different so it was fun for a while, but in the end I didn't really like it. The good thing is that I Pricelined it and got it for $16 a day. Not my finest hour in rental car history (that would be $13/day) but pretty close. I'm a huge fan of using Priceline for renting cars - all of the price savings that you get on airplane tickets without the drawback of not being able to specify a time. Moving on from my Priceline ad, I had an 8 AM meeting the next morning, which I just dialed into from our hosts' house, as there was no way I was getting up early enough to drive into HP Roseville from Folsom by 8 after our late night the night before. When I did make it in, I was actually able to just work in my old cube, as a contractor that had worked there in the meantime had quit to take a job with Tivo. It no longer felt the same though. For one, I had to clean up the huge amount of dust that had collected there. But it was a lot of fun to hang out with my old team. Naturally there were quite a few inflatable beach ball attacks. Par for the course in California. I don't really get that in Texas. I think offices tend to discourage that sort of activity, whereas cubicles are quite conducive to it. We went to the legendary Chicago Fire Pizza two nights in a row with different groups of friends. A great restaurant, but it does lose a little something to go to the same place two consecutive nights. We also basically stuffed our faces every day with all the different people we met up with for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so much so that I could not even fit in hitting In N Out even once. I believe I gained back about three pounds from my all my eating. I did manage to go jogging once, but I had hoped to do more. My performance has been no better in the week since we got back, due to the effects of jet lag, me getting mildly sick, and time devoted to the NBA playoffs. We did manage to see a ton of our old friends and got to go to our old church. We miss both of those things a lot, as I feel like one thing we lack in Texas is a lot of Christian friends our age. We also hung out with my wife's family for Mother's Day and couple of other meals. In fact, her grandmother ended up having emergency gallbladder surgery while we were there. Never a good thing to have to have surgery, but since she did have to have it, I was glad that my wife could be there for it. There's my quick vacation brain dump.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Science experiment?

My wife recently took an onion we left in our pantry for too long and started growing it in a glass on our counter. I'm not exactly sure why. Perhaps she's really missing middle school science fairs? Regardless, I knew you'd want to see it. We have no plans at this time to become self-sufficient in terms of onions.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Is it me?

I'm usually not much for online tests/memes, but I took one a couple of weeks ago that I thought was interesting. Fairly accurate too, though I have some minor quibbles with it. You can mouse over the picture to see the traits it has for me. I think it over-rated my extroversion a little bit and gave me lower style points because I said that what I wear doesn't define me at all. But I am an engineer, so maybe "slightly low attention to style" (the gray box at the bottom) is all we can hope for. One interesting thing is that I can actually invite other people to answer the same questions about me and see if their perception matches mine. Go here if you would like to do that. I'm actually fairly interested in that, so please do so if you have any inclination.
**Update: it looks like you have to do your own assessment of yourself before you can assess me, so this may not be such a huge win. Oh well.

Final PBG results

I have the money in hand from the contest! At left you can see what I look like now that it is over. Ok, maybe not. As you know, I hit the initial weigh-in at 245. We then had to stay under target (253 for me) for the next month, including potentially random checks. We actually only had one random weigh-in, and then the final one at the end of the month. I weighed 246 at both of those, so I managed to stay pretty much the same. I've started playing a ton of racquetball at work, and am playing basketball once a week as well. I'm as active as I've been since college, and it's definitely fun, although one guy at work owns me at racquetball, so I am now dedicating myself to beating him. I have started running more, too. I busted out a 10k (6.2 miles for those of you who aren't metric savvy) on the treadmill two weekends ago. It is amazing how much easier it is to run when you weigh less. I even did the 10k in 58 minutes, which is no incredibly speedy time or anything, but is going pretty quickly for me. I'm also occasionally trying to run faster 1 mile times. So far I've gotten down to 1 mile in 7:30, and I'd like to push that down under 7 minutes. My other big aim is to do a 5k in under 25 minutes (basically 8 minute miles for 3.1 miles). Right now I can do in the 27 minute range, at a little bit faster than a 9 minute mile pace. I figure with a little bit more training I should be able to keep up an 8 minute mile pace for an entire 5k.

On a related note, I saw a doctor for the first time since we moved here, just to get a physical. He pronounced me "very fit" and was impressed with my resting heart rate being under 60.